October 1, 2008

The Changing Village, and the New Economy of Vintage Clothing and Donuts

When I'm not out pacing New York streets for the themed walks on this website, I routinely walk closer to home in and around the area south of Washington Square Park. It's remarkable how things are changing now along LaGuardia Place, Thompson, Sullivan, Bleecker, Macdougal, and W. 3rd St. Over the last few months, for example, I've seen the closing of several restaurants, with a few of the vacant spaces staying empty. The number of chain franchises (MacDonald's, Five Guys, Subway, etc.) has me worried that the area will soon turn into the Greenwich Village Food Court. Now please add to the list a Qdoba Mexican Grill at the corner of Bleecker and Macdougal in the spot previously occupied by Café Figaro. The new management has painted over the charming cat and coffee mural on the side of the building and replaced it with the company logo. Say goodbye, too, to café-style seating on the sidewalk. The restaurant space on the northwest corner of the intersection has been empty for some time now. And, considering the precarious economy, who knows what will take the place of the former Senor Swanky's on Bleecker and LaGuardia?

The newest additions to the neighborhood include a Dunkin' Donuts on W. 3rd St., in the place where a Heavenly Delights once was, and Tonnie's Cupcakes has opened a little place on Macdougal where there was briefly some sort of yogurt/gelato shop. Donuts and mini cupcakes are a welcome addition to the neighborhood, in my opinion, as they are affordable and immediately gratifying.

As a neighbor I feel I have a personal stake in what transpires on these streets, but in addition, the economic activity here represents a microcosm of the larger city. What we do have going for us in this area is a neighborhood of long-time residents in addition to a transient student population. All in the city should have a stake in keeping open the remaining cafés and taverns. The best new thing to happen on Bleecker Street in a long time is the opening of the multi-media arts and cabaret venue, Le Poisson Rouge. I saw an innovative staging of the Monteverdi opera, The Coronation of Poppea, there back in August, and all the programming is exceptional, provocative, and enticing.

Just down from Le Poisson Rouge, Hamlet's Vintage at 162 Bleecker, a store that relocated here from W. Broadway a few months back, sells quality vintage clothing. I stopped into the store today, and I found a full rack of splendid fall jackets. In fact, if you followed my shopping excursion on Fifth Avenue from yesterday, you'll be glad to know I bought just the jacket I wanted at this very place. It fit me like it was made for me, and I'm pleased that it's a genuine Giorgio Sant'Angelo, a legendary figure in 1970s fashion (NY Mag article from 2002). Furthermore, I think it's awesome that the jacket was made in Yugoslavia, a country that does not exist anymore. Comparing it to the one I liked yesterday, I also saved myself about $400. The jacket is clearly a political and economic survivor, the very thing I need to shore up my wardrobe for the fall of 2008. I'm ready to see the sights of New York now. I have a new jacket, some new blue jeans, a couple of new pashminas, and a donut.

Just above is a picture of WOTBA's new jacket, with her beloved Frieda doll and an image by the awesome South Carolina artist, Tarleton Blackwell.

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